Wednesday, December 24, 2008

At the holidays, not as much progress as I would like

 When is begin this blog, I committed to doing an entry every week. You can easily see that I have not done well in keeping this current. I can only say that the past weeks have been extremely busy. Most days have been filled with so much to do that the have stretched to 10 to 14 hours each. The blog has just suffered in the face of so much other work to do. I plan to correct that in the coming year… hopefully! Here is a project by project update on what is going on at this point.

Projectors and Interactive White Board Alignment
N our project we had a decision to make early on. Do we install the 75 inch IWBs that have the 4:3 aspect ratio (like the old television sets) or do we install the 96 inch IWBs that are the wide screen 16:10 aspect ratio (like an HD television set). We made the commitment early on to install the more modern 16:10 aspect ration boards that are like the HD television sets.

There has been a serious challenge to the our plans to use the 95 inch IWB. Initially we had selected the Epson W6 projector in our classrooms. This is a WXGA projector that will match the aspect ratio of the IWBs. Unfortunately, the projector does not have any management connections and only one input. It will not work in our present wiring scheme. That sent us looking for a projector that would work within our system. In trying different schemes we have found that most projectors put in extra pixels to accommodate for keystoning or to match at certain aspect ratio. In effect they add pixels that are not really there on the computer image. The extra pixels create dead spots on an interactive white board. As you try and make a line across the board it turns into a dotted line as it encounters the “dead spots” where the added pixels are. This will never work in a classroom!! A teacher would try and activate an image on the dead spots and the board will not respond.

We are continuing to test for the best combination that will not produce these dead spots. Until we do, we cannot go forward with a system that will not work flawlessly in the classroom. We will be testing next week and I believe that we will come up with a workable solution.

Valadez Middle School
Although the school was bid with the classroom wiring and controls installed, there have been a large number of items that still needed to be completed. One was the audio system called Voice Lift that was donated to the school from Extron. It is the first school to be outfitted with the new system in the first Week in December. There have been some small issues with crackling with the student microphones and Extron is looking into how to correct this. It may be that the many cabinets in the classrooms that have glass fronts are not reflecting the Infrared light to the receiver causing the crackling.

The second question is how to mount the Promethean Boards. The teacher walls were not designed to accommodate the interactive white boards so the question of how to mount them has been a quandary. We had the teacher wall redesigned to house the IWB and that was supposed to cost $400, but the final cost to do this work was $1400 per room and way out of the budget. This would be two computers per room that would not be there for kids. We tried a sliding mount that would attach to the front to the teacher wall and that is just too unstable. Every time you touch the board it moves and keeping the calibration on the IWB would not be easy. Teachers would have to be constantly re-calibrating all day. This is not the solution we were looking for. We are still looking at adapting the mount or by installing the boards like the in the pilot classrooms on the front of the teacher walls.

Yorba Linda Middle School and Glenknoll Elementary Schools
The projector issue has halted work at these schools, but most of the electrical and sound wiring has been completed.

At these schools there are a couple of different classroom configurations. At YLMS there are either portable classrooms that are rectangular and permanent classrooms that are generally square. After much thought and consultation with the pilot teachers we decided NOT to use the teacher walls in these classrooms. The teacher walls are of the “C” variety that have only three very small boards. The 95 inch board would take up all the space of the existing three small white boards and eliminate all the storage in the rooms.

Instead we will mount the IWBs on the other walls and build a waist high cabinet on one site of the IWB to house the equipment and to provide a working space for a computer, document camera or other peripheral equipment on. To do this we will split the existing white boards and mount the IWB in the middle of the existing white boards. On the square rooms the IWB will be mounted on the wall 90 degress to the teacher walls and opposite the classroom doors. In the portable classrooms the IWB will be installed opposite to the existing teacher walls.

The new science classrooms at YLMS are like the rooms at Valadez. We are looking at how to mount the boards on the cabinets.

Glenkoll Elemetary has two kinds of permanent classrooms on that is on the end of the classroom wings and 4 rooms that are at the center of the wings. All of these rooms have the small teaching walls. We will need to mount the boards on another wall similar to YLMS. The end classrooms will have the IWB mounted opposite of the existing teaching walls, splitting the existing white boards and placing the IWB in the middle. The center classrooms will have the IWB mounted opposite the classroom doors and 90 degrees to the existing teaching walls. The Kindergarten classrooms will have the board mounted on the teaching wall and the portables will be identical to YLMS.

The Unit Bid
The majority of the classrooms in PYLUSD will be constructed under a unit bid. This is a bid with will provide a vehicle for us to get the classrooms constructed. The 2 classrooms at every site and all the remaining classrooms in the district over the summer and next year will be installed using this bid. So the timing of this bid is all important. We had been taking small numbers of classrooms and finding other avenues to get them constructed, prior to the unit bid, but that has been met with resistance. We will now wait for all classrooms to be done as part of this bid.

The timeline for this bid is still a bit murky, but we hope to get the bid out in mid-January and get it to the board at the second meeting in February.

The Pilot Music Classrooms
After months of work, we finally got an equipment list and a classroom construction plan agreed upon. On receiving the equipment list from the vendor who was helping us construct our model, I submitted a Purchase Request to get the pilot classrooms underway. It has been held up in purchasing to get all the equipment quoted from different vendors. We will have to wait unit the quotes are finalized to move forward.

So much work has been done, most of it no one will ever see.  I wish that we had many more classrooms completed, but I remain optimistic that we will have a great conclusion.  Its Christmas eve and I want to wish you all a great holiday.  

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